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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Relationships Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

I am trying to find some information on the problems that adult children of divorce have in relationships. I had a very brief relationship with a man who was from a divorced family. He is very insecure. We are still friends and I would like to be able to help him by at least providing a book or other materials for him to read. I watched a very impressive documentary on PBS a few weeks ago on Children of Divorce and really began to understand how terribly hurt these children were and now they are having severe relationship problems. Is there any reading material available to help ADULT children of divorce? Thanks so much for any help you can offer.

Answer

When you read about children of divorce, for the most part the researchers are talking about the effects of divorce on young children, not upon adults. There is some research on the effects of divorce on adolescents. However, I do not know of any research that has compared a large sample of adults on the single criterion of divorce versus no divorce. There are too many variables to be considered. Furthermore, in some families the level of dysfunction is so high that divorce may be preferable, e.g., families were there is verbal or physical abuse. By the time we reach adulthood, there are so many variables that can lead to psychological difficulties, that it is difficult to attribute these difficulties to divorce alone.

In the situation you have described, the insecurity may have had more to do with the quality of your friend's interpersonal experiences than whether or not his parents divorced. Research has demonstrated that it is not divorce that creates difficulties for children, but rather it is the degree of acrimony around the divorce. In other words, parental conflict, irrespective of divorce, is detrimental to the well being of children whether in a divorced family or not. The experience of early conflict itself often can lead to interpersonal difficulties in adulthood.

3/5/98

Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years. He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation, couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing Bookstore Catalog.

Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.

 

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